Belfast Telegraph

Administrators may shut down some of BHS' Northern Ireland stores

By Margaret Canning

The administrators of retail chain BHS may eventually close one or more of its four stores in Northern Ireland, a retail expert has said.

Value retailer BHS has four stores in the greater Belfast area.

And Eamonn Murphy of Murphy Surveyors said the concentration of stores in the area could mean that the administrators take the decision to close at least one.

There are BHS units in Belfast city centre's Castle Place, in Holywood Exchange in the east of the city, as well as in Newtownabbey's Abbey Centre and in Lisburn's Bow Street Mall.

A spokeswoman for administrators Duff & Phelps yesterday said there were no immediate plans to close stores.

BHS went into administration this week, putting 11,000 jobs at risk UK-wide, including 300 among its staff in Northern Ireland.

Mr Murphy said the company's flagship store in Belfast may be too large for another retailer.

"There wouldn't be too many people around for such a big space."

A former TK Maxx at the upstairs rear of CastleCourt Shopping Centre had been vacant for seven years, he said.

"The last big city centre deal has been the sale of Donegall Arcade to Sports Direct, which will open at the former Currys, which is 10-12,000 sq ft.

"But because of the BHS store's location, it could present a really good redevelopment opportunity as offices, for urban living or for student accommodation."

He added: "If there is a purchase of the stores out of administration, whether or not the Northern Ireland stores are bought as well will depend on whether or not they are profitable."

But he said that the Newtownabbey spot of BHS could prove attractive because of the success of the Abbey Centre following its purchase by NewRiver Retail.

Meanwhile, it's emerged that Austin Reed - a clothing and tailoring company which also went into administration this week - had moved to downsize its Belfast operation some months ago.

CC (Country Casuals) and Viyella - both owned by Austin Reed - were in neighbouring units on Fountain Street.

But now the Country Casuals unit has closed, with the Viyella unit now selling both brands.

The administrators of Austin Reed have said cash flow difficulties arising from a tough retail market led to their appointment by the company's directors.

AlixPartners Services Ltd said they would continue to trade the group while looking at a possible sale of some or all of the business.

Belfast Telegraph